Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva: Comparing Their Strength of Competition
Jon Jones and Anderson Silva are eerily similar.
The aura of invincibility.
Each fighter has exuded utter superiority inside the UFC Octagon like no fighter before, and for that Silva and Jones are widely consider the best and second-best fighters in the world, respectively.
Both men have decimated opponents, but who had the tougher road to stardom? Who has defeated the better men?
Start the slideshow to see a comparison of each fighter's strength of competition.
The Pre-UFC Days
No fighter begins his career inside the world's premier organization, and Jon Jones and Anderson Silva are not exceptions to the rule.
That said, one fighter fought much tougher opposition outside of the UFC Octagon.
That man is Anderson Silva.
A veteran of Pride Fighting Championships and Cage Rage, Silva tangled 21 times outside of the UFC, with the likes of Carlos Newton, Lee Murray and Jeremy Horn among his early opponents.
Jon Jones, on the other hand, faced only six opponents outside the Octagon, with none of them having any current or past name recognition.
Without a doubt, "The Spider" had the rougher road to the Octagon.
UFC Debut and Road to the Title
What Jon Jones lacks in pre-UFC experience, he more than makes up for with pre-UFC title experience.
Anderson Silva had a whopping one victory over Chris Leben before being vaulted into a championship bout, whereas Jones fought seven times, winning each bout in dominant fashion.
Yes, I realize he "lost" to Matt Hamill, but come on now; we all know what happened there.
Anderson Silva may have proved his worth outside the UFC Octagon, but Jon Jones seized his opportunity and ran with it once he was under the bright lights of primetime, and for that he holds an edge over Silva in this category.
Seizing the Title
Jon Jones and Anderson Silva earned their title shots in different ways, but it ultimately led them to the same spot: a matchup with the undisputed best fighter in the division.
For Silva, it was Rich Franklin, a former math teacher with devastating hands and a well-rounded game that was giving the middleweight division fits.
For Jones, the man to beat was Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, an MMA legend coming off a destruction of elusive Karate master Lyoto Machida.
After their respective bouts, there was absolutely no question that a new sheriff was in town, as each won via impressive TKO victory.
Silva used a Muay Thai clinch of doom and kneed Franklin into oblivion, while Jones utilized a diverse, rangy standup attack to down Rua via TKO in the third round.
Which is more impressive? For me, neither is better than the other—this is a wash.
Title Defenses (Silva)
Once Jones and Silva captured their division's championship belts, there was no turning back.
Jones' career is relatively young when compared to Silva's, so for this category, try to keep that in mind.
Let us start with "The Spider."
Silva drew Travis Lutter in his first title defense, a ground expert who came in overweight for his one and only chance for a title.
That is the sign of a true champion, folks!
After defeating Lutter, Silva defended the belt against Nate Marquardt, Rich Franklin (again) and Dan Henderson, winning each bout via stoppage.
Then the fun began.
After dispatching of Dan Henderson, Silva decided it was time to play. First, he took a bout with James Irvin at light heavyweight, where he proved equally dominant, but the most curious bouts of all were yet to come.
Against Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia, Silva was downright silly. He danced, juked and fooled around with his opponents and never flashed the brilliance of his previous wins. He was content to win decisions, and that is exactly what he did in two out of the three instances (Cote, the exception, suffered an injury in his matchup).
Apparently, the fun was over after that little foray into ridiculousness as Silva showed the Spider of old against Chael Sonnen (twice), Yushin Okami and Vitor Belfort in his next four defenses.
For Silva, his reign is characterized by utter dominance and a lack of focus at times that led to some questionable fights with clearly outgunned opposition.
Overall, though, he was truly challenged only once, and with 10 title defenses on his resume, that is stunning.
Now to dissect Jones' track record as champion...
Title Defenses (Jones)
In his three title defenses, Jon Jones has shown all the brilliance of Silva with none of the goofy antics; when it comes time to defend the belt, "Bones" is all business, and you do not want to be on the business end of his attacks.
First, Jones drew Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, a powerful boxer with solid wrestling skills.
He was no match at all for the young phenom. In fact, when I recall this fight, I feel like Jones held Rampage's head and kept him at bay in true "bully vs. school nerd" fashion; it was that bad.
Rampage mounted no offense in this fight, and Jones toyed with him until he decided the fourth round was a nice time for a stoppage. He took Rampage down with ease, sunk in the rear-naked choke, and his first title defense was over.
Things would not be so easy for Jones in his second outing, though, as he took on the darting Lyoto Machida.
Machida used his world-class counter striking and footwork to steal Round 1 from Jones, even staggering the champion at one point with a nicely timed punch to the jaw.
The second round was a different story though. "Bones" took Machida down and immediately busted him open with one of his patented elbows, and the fight was written from there.
Clearly affected by the cut, Machida wasn't the same, and he was caught by a left hand from Jones which led him into the champion's vice-like guillotine choke.
"The Dragon" chose not to tap, and the referee was forced to pry his unconscious figure off the canvas, a scary sight to see anytime inside the Octagon.
In his third and most recent title defense, Jones faced Rashad Evans in a bout that featured more build up and trash talk than any of his previous affairs.
This fight was largely uneventful, as Jones used his range and superior technical striking to keep Evans on the outside where he could never mount an attack. Jones won easily via unanimous decision, but it was far from the impressiveness of his previous two defenses.
Overall, Silva and Jones both have been utterly dominant in their respective title matchups, but I feel Jones was fighting higher competition on the whole. Names like Rampage, Evans, Machida and Rua are still among the division's elite, whereas Silva's resume consists of some fighters who are now irrelevant and out of the organization.
That said, I cannot fault Silva for taking what the UFC gives him, but the fact remains that he did not finish and show the killer instinct against these lesser foes.
Each fighter has shown a peak of similar magnitude, but Silva's lows have been lower, and for that, I give the edge to Jones.
It is hard to say decisively who has been better throughout his career because both Silva and Jones have dominanted in such brilliant fashion, but a choice must be made; I am not copping out and calling this a wash.
Jon Jones' strength of competition has been more impressive thus far.
When you look at his resume, especially once he captured the belt, it is a laundry list of dominant champions and light heavyweight fighters who each presented a unique threat to his title reign.
He disposed of them all impressively, and for that he gets the edge.
Silva, on the other hand, has had a run of unparalleled duration, but his spectacles against Leites, Maia and Cote cannot be forgotten. I refuse to believe that Jones has, or ever will, act like that in the cage, and for that Jones is our victor in this breakdown.
With more fights under his belt, Jones will further prove this, but for now, call it a prediction rooted in hard evidence.
Winner: Jon Jones via controversial split-decision
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